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Greening IT

Print management is helping eliminate waste and reduce paper costs at one environmentally savvy college.

The following online article, "Print Management Automates 'Greening' of IT at Saint Mary's," ran on Feb. 14, 2008.

Greening ITRARELY DO BAD HABITS CHANGE just because attention has been brought to them. Most of the time, change requires some form of vigilance, whether selfimposed or provided by others-- or even better, provided by automation. In the case of Saint Mary's College, a women's college in Notre Dame, IN, the implementation of a network-based printer accounting program for publicly accessible printers on campus helped eliminate a bad habit prevalent at many higher education institutions: wasting paper. Thanks to the new system, in one year the college was able to reduce its paper costs for its four mostused printers by about $1,269.

According to Kathy Hausmann, coordinator of student computing for the 1,600-student campus, a single printer pumped out 548,260 pages over the course of the 2005- 2006 school year. The printer: a WorkCentre Pro 55 from Xerox. The 24-hour computer lounge in the basement of the library, where that printer lives, had a standing delivery order for eight boxes of paper every week. But the people who provided support to users in that cluster noticed something: Students were oblivious to their bad printing habits.

The biggest issue, says Hausmann, was that students would print PowerPoint presentations from their instructors without checking the print settings. If something went wrong, students often would reprint a lengthy presentation without even bothering to remove the first print job to put it in the recycling bin, she explains.

The college's CIO at the time suggested a particular print management software product, which Hausmann's group tried in test mode for about four months. But in spite of vendor support, they couldn't get it to work on their network. Then, a timely postcard arrived, advertising Print-Limit Pro from GenevaLogic. The IT team had a demo version up and running in less than a day. From there, the team ran a two-week trial in the largest computer cluster on campus, where the notorious Xerox machine as well as an HP LaserJet 8100TN reside.

The primary goal of the new system was to make students aware of how much they were printing. "It worked beautifully," recalls Hausmann. So the school bought a perpetual license covering up to 2,999 users for about $4,495 (as well as a maintenance agreement for $899 a year) and deployed the system to the printers used by students.

Though students initially balked at the idea that IT would consider a quota system for printer usage, just six students exceeded their quotas in the first year of Saint Mary's print management software deployment.

How It Works

Today, when a user sits down in front of a machine in one of the computing centers at the school, she has to log in for LDAP authentication on the network. The Print-Limit client software, installed on each computer, pops up a window indicating the student's remaining print quota. Each student is allotted $100 per year in printing, an amount that Hausmann derived by researching other campuses' print accounting methods and electing to match the quota offered at the large school next door, the University of Notre Dame. Since the two campuses share students, it made sense, she says, to have parity. The $100 per year buys students 1,000 sheets-- whether printed one side or both.

When the student chooses to print a file, another window pops up providing information about what's being printed, what printer is being used, and what the charge is for the print job. To activate the print job, the student needs to reenter a username and password. The second authentication forces the user to confirm the information and ensures that if she forgets to log out from a computer in a public area, nobody else can print from that quota.

When a printer needs to be taken offline, the software displays a message that can be customized to inform the user that she needs to print to another device.

Each year, the remaining quota for each student rolls over. And if a student reaches his or her limit, that individual can increase it by buying a print card from the bookstore for a specific dollar amount. "We don't touch the money," says Hausmann. "We just generate the print cards and hand them to the bookstore, and the bookstore sells them." As a side benefit, the cards have served as PR for the IT organization: Anytime a school group needs a prize donation for a campus event, Hausmann creates print cards to give away.

Changing Minds and Habits

When Hausmann first approached her team of 35 student workers about the prospect of managing printer use, they were all for it. "They saw how much paper was being wasted every day," she says. "They are the ones refilling the printers with paper and toner, and removing the unclaimed print jobs from printers and putting the wasted paper in a stack for scrap paper or into the recycle bin." The workers' support, she says, helped communicate the importance of the change to the rest of the student body.

Then a reporter picked it up as a topic for The Observer, Saint Mary's student paper, after witnessing the waste that went on in the computer lounge cluster. Hausmann supplied statistics her student workers had compiled on printer usage. In the article, students balked at the idea that IT would consider a quota system for printer usage. "I am against being charged for using the printer because many classes require us to print off lengthy articles from Blackboard and the internet," said one student in the article.

By the time Print-Limit was actually deployed, the student computing department had publicized its arrival via a web page, posters, new student orientation presentations, and a two-week trial that took place in May 2006. During that period, students received the Print-Limit pop-up window but had no limits on their print quotas. Only one student came close to reaching the planned 1,000-page limit during the trial, recalls Hausmann. The student was printing out the entire handbooks from three different graduate schools-- and using a single-sided setting on printer capable of two-sided printing, creating double the waste.

During the first year of deployment, Hausmann recounts, just six students exceeded their quotas and bought additional print cards. Conversely, a few students requested a refund of the $100 allocation, since they'd brought their own printers to campus. The student computing coordinator had to explain that the amount was a "fuzzy number made up so you can print 1,000 sheets of paper," and therefore nonrefundable.

By the end of the first year using Print-Limit, the computer lounge Xerox printer had printed 100,000 fewer sheets compared to the previous year. Stats from the HP machine showed a decrease of 67,000 pages. Across the four most-used printers managed through Print-Limit, Hausmann calculates, the total savings in year one amounted to about 230,000 pages.

"That's 47 boxes of paper we didn't have to order," she happily reports.

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